This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
Mitt Romney got some unwanted attention early this year when he flatly stated, "I'm not concerned about the very poor." When challenged on this remark he assured Americans that the safety net for the very poor was a given, safe from any budget and tax code tinkering in Washington. This was a sinister explanation since Romney's tax and spending plan -- or as much of it as can be deciphered -- calls for further tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social services that he claimed were safe.
Now, we see that it's not just the "very poor" who don't merit Romney's "concern." At the now-infamous $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Florida, Romney wrote off the concerns of the 47 percent of Americans who don't owe federal income taxes, saying that half of Americans are "dependent on government," "believe that they are the victims," and have the gall to "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
That 47 percent includes families and individuals with low incomes -- about 23 percent of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center. It also includes those for whom tax credits for children and working families have eliminated tax burdens -- about 7 percent. It also includes seniors who have left the workforce -- about 10 percent. Over half of the 47 percent pay federal payroll taxes. All are subject to state and local taxes, many of which, like sales taxes, are more regressive than federal taxes. (And if we ever see more Romney tax returns, we may find some years when the Romney's were in that entitled 47 percent.)
As conservative writer Reihan Salam points out in the National Review, policies like the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit -- responsible for much of this tax relief for working families -- were conservative ideas meant to reduce the "dependency" that Romney so reviles, by "encourag[ing] people get on the first rungs of the jobs ladder, and to become less dependent over time."
Romney was telling the well-heeled guests at this fundraising dinner that these people -- middle-class parents, low-income workers, the unemployed, the elderly -- aren't interested in working hard despite the fact that most of them report to the IRS each year that they work quite a lot. This isn't just tin-eared politics. Like Romney's comments on the "very poor," it represents a profound misunderstanding of how Americans' lives work and how his policies would affect those lives.
But even talking about the "47 percent versus the 53 percent" belies the fact that nobody in America is free from at least some government "dependency." We all rely on roads, hospitals, schools, firefighters, police officers, and our military -- even Mitt Romney and his $50,000-a-plate friends. Romney himself has relied on the government's safety net for businesses, securing a federal bailout for Bain & Company. Nobody succeeds without some help from a stable, functional government. That's what President Obama was saying when his "you didn't build that" comments were taken out of context.
Romney was clearly telling his funders a fantasy story that they love to hear. But that story is a lie, and we shouldn't accept it from someone who could become a president representing 100 percent of the American people.
Justice Antonin Scalia gave a TV interview last night on CNN in which he reminded Americans of his right-wing ideology. Since Mitt Romney has said he would nominate Supreme Court Justices like Scalia if elected president, the interview also served as a warning to Americans of what's at stake this November. Talking Points Memo summarizes some of the interview's highlights:
Scalia defended Citizens United, which took elections from the people and handed them to often-secretive powerful interests that drown out the voices of non-millionaires. He added, however, that people are "entitled" to know who is financing the messages they are bombarded with.
In an era when Roe v. Wade has already been watered down, Scalia repeated his belief that women have no constitutional right to abortion at all. "[M]y only point is the Constitution does not say anything about it. It leaves it up to democratic choice." (That would be news to those who adopted the Ninth Amendment specifically to counter future assertions that the rights specifically mentioned in the Constitution are a ceiling, not a floor.)
Scalia also stated his opinion that torturing an innocent person taken from a battlefield isn't cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. "I don't think the Constitution addressed torture, it addressed … punishment for crimes."
CNN adds another highlight:
When asked if he had ever broken the law, the justice said, "I've had a few speeding tickets, though none recently."
Let's hope for his sake that the traffic stop didn't lead to an unwarranted and humiliating strip search, as occurred to Albert Florence. When Florence challenged the strip search as unconstitutional, Scalia was part of the conservative 5-4 majority that denied his claim.
Do we really want a president who looks to Antonin Scalia as a model to emulate?